Knucklehead Survivor: 1938 Harley-Davidson EL

Despite Harley Davidson’s ongoing financial troubles, its original bikes are still pulling big numbers on eBay. This is despite the fact that it seems bikes like this vintage EL Knucklehead keep popping out of the woodwork, needing a proper restoration but rejuvenated just enough that the bike can run under its own power. There’s been a rash of eBay sellers as of late selling Knuckleheads and other Harleys of the same era in a similar fashion, and it must be working given the asking prices. This Harley is listed here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $78,500 and the option to submit a best offer.

The seller notes that the Harley is equipped with a rebuilt engine, new battery, and a freshly rebuilt carburetor. I can’t recall seeing too many ELs painted this color, but I’m digging it, regardless of whether it’s factory-correct. The faded graphics would suggest it’s original, but those could have been reproductions or factory replacements from when the bike was far newer. The overall condition definitely lands on the “patina” side of things, which the seller is counting on appealing to potential buyers.

And why not? Originality is so hard to come by these days that owning a vintage Harley in this sort of condition has become more often the exception to the rule given how many are running around loaded with chrome and custom paint jobs. Bikes like this are indicative of the condition that most authentic Harley owners left their projects in, concentrating their attention and money on preserving or enhancing the mechanical components while rarely concerning themselves with the cosmetic condition.

And honestly, this looks good enough to ride as-is, with a few caveats. The seller notes it will at least need tires before it hits the open road, and likely a few other things. The good news is you’re starting with a bike that has matching belly numbers and almost all original parts aside from the exhaust and wiring. The seller notes that while not every piece is correct for a ’38, they are authentic Harley Davidson parts. Address the final mechanical sorting and simply enjoy – and hopefully, with the kermit green paintjob in place.

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  1. Gaspumpchas

    Sweet Harley but am I correct at seeing 78,000? Good luck. sure has the look!
    Stay safe

  2. Terry R Melvin

    Rebuilt engine? I bet, back in about 1958

  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    These are still out there. Unfortunately the asking price is so far out of my budget I can’t even imagine bringing this home. Sure is nice. The Knucklehead will always be my favorite OHV Harley-Davidson.

    I don’t know about the EL cylinders but the FL versions were a tad light. I remember a guy in Rapid City right at the tail end of Bike Week. His rear cylinder literally had ‘young ones.’ The upper part was still bolted to the head and the lower part to the crankcase. Everything between was missing, just the crumpled remains of the piston out there in front of God and everybody; the head held in place by the intake manifold and the exhaust pipe. The guy had the pushrods and tubes in a saddle bag. Needless to say he was going to haul the bike home…

  4. Wiiliam Hall

    On The Pickers TV Show it seems like their holy grail is a Harley Knucklehead. They found a couple the deals never closed?

  5. Scuderia

    Survivor? That might be a stretch… Looks like a bitsa with added patina (paint, decals etc.)

  6. david R

    It is beautiful but must be a nightmare to drive with a foot clutch and hand shifter.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      You catch on quickly. My 45 had the throttle and spark advance/shift lever switched around. That sometimes got confusing, but you were reminded of it on a hot summer day…

  7. TimM

    $78,500 is that for real???? I think I would settle for three new ones instead of buying this one!!!

  8. chrlsful

    liked the panhead better…
    but all around?
    Nothing looked like a bike should, sounded like a bike should, drove like a bike …
    (u get it) the ’69 (pre-AMF) XLCH I got picked up on thumbin thru the AZ desert in 1969 (17 y/o kid – Boston to Frisco bound). Want one to this day 51 yrs later…

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